The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was originally scheduled to vote early next week on the nomination of Ernest W. Lefever, President Reagan's controversial nominee as assistant secretary of state for human rights, instead will call him for more questioning in closed session.
Scott Cohen, an aide to the committee chairman, Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.), said Perce also has agreed to hold votes on opening the hearings and on calling U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrict and Nestle Corp. officials to testify on Lefever's activities in support of selling baby formula in developing countries.
The committee will questin Lefever in closed session on contributions to the public policy center he heads by Nestle, one of the world's leading formula manufacturers, and attorneys for Nestle and a foundation funded by anonymous donors. Lefever previously has refused to disclose these matters, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Three Democrats on the committee, Senate minority whip Alan Cranston of California and Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, yesterday requested the open hearings unless Lefever withdrew his nomination.
Lever has received carefully worded public statements of support from the White House and State Department.
Sources close to Lefever say that he feels that he still has the president's support based on reassurances from Sen. S. I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.), who accompanied the president on his recent trip to California. Janice Barbareri, press spokeswoman for Hayakawa, confirmed yesterday that Reagan personally reiterated his support for Lefever on the flight.